WADSWORTH — The Wadsworth boys basketball team broke into the win column in a big way Friday night.
Repeatedly turning great half-court, man-to-man defense into easy offense, the Grizzlies cruised to a 52-31 Suburban League National Conference victory over struggling Cuyahoga Falls.
“We just tried to be fundamental and keep guys in front of them,” said Wadsworth power forward Jack Simmons, who had 19 points, five rebounds and four steals. “We noticed they shot a multitude of threes, so we tried to make them drivers rather than 3-point shooters. I felt we succeeded on that.”
That the Grizzlies (1-2, 1-1) did, as the Black Tigers
(1-5, 0-3) shot just 11-for-41 from the field (.268) and 5-for-11 at the line, all of the latter coming in the second half. Wadsworth, by contrast, was 19-for-36 from the field (.528) and 12-for-19 at the line, including a 9-for-14 performance at the stripe in the first half.
Cuyahoga Falls, which missed its first nine shots of the second period, went 8:20 without a point as Wadsworth went on a 13-0 run to take a 23-9 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.
The Grizzlies led 34-14 before Black Tigers leading scorer James Moore, who at 6-foot-4 had a five-inch height advantage on gritty Wadsworth point guard Lance Steward, got on the board with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
Moore, who sat the last 5:34 of the first half after picking up his second foul, wound up with seven points, which tied Noah Koehler, who scored Cuyahoga Falls’ first seven points, for the team lead.
“We talk all the time that everything we do has to start with defense,” Wadsworth coach Mike Moser said. “We emphasize that more than anything.”
The Grizzlies, who led by as many as 25 points, held the Black Tigers to quarter scoring totals of nine, three, nine and 10, with most of the latter coming in serious garbage time.
On four occasions in the second half, the 6-3 Simmons picked off passes from the wing to the top of the key. Three times, he drove for easy layups. On the fourth, he missed a dunk.
“I didn’t get any in the first half, but I kind of figured out what they were doing,” the senior said. “Then I was able to get up and jump the pass.”
Though it shot almost 53 percent from the floor, Wadsworth wasn’t beautiful to watch offensively. The Grizzlies made just two 3-pointers, with their first coming midway through the third period, but they repeatedly pounded the ball inside, even to their guards, or got layups off turnovers.
Small forward T.J. Lockwood had nine points for Wadsworth, with center Beau Casey (6 points, 7 rebounds), shooting guard Brendan Merhar (5, 2, 4 assists), point guard Steward (1, 6, 1) and reserves Mitch Evans (3 points, 6 rebounds) and Jake Jariga (7 points) also contributing.
“(The victory) was very much needed,” Simmons said. “The win tonight was a real confidence booster.”
The Grizzlies, who postponed one game because their football team advanced to the Division II, Region 7 final, lost a tough one to Brunswick to start the season and then got blown out 67-39 by Stow in SL National play but never looked back.
“We walked in the next day (after the Stow game) and said, ‘Our goal is to get better today,’” Moser said. “We woke up with the attitude that we had to get better.”
Wadsworth won the junior varsity game 42-32 behind 13 points from Jaydon Lucas.
Contact Rick Noland at email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Wadsworth 52, Cuyahoga Falls 31
CUYAHOGA FALLS 9 3 9 10 — 31
WADSWORTH 14 11 16 11 — 52
Cuyahoga Falls — Tyler Tepus 0-2-2, Noah Koehler 3-0-7, James Moore 3-1-7, Dai Dai Brazile 1-0-2, Deon Horn 1-0-3, Joey Canterbury 0-0-0, Alex Miller 2-0-6, Tony Sondles 0-0-0, Joey Sondles 0-1-1, Anthony Nichols 0-0-0, Trinny Henderson 1-0-2, Ethan Tompkins 0-1-1. TOTALS: 11-5-31.
Wadsworth — T.J. Lockwood 2-4-9, Jack Simmons 8-3-19, Beau Casey 3-0-6, Brendan Merhar 1-2-5, Lance Steward 0-1-1, Jake McDermitt 0-0-0, Mitch Evans 1-1-3, Jake Jariga 3-1-7, Stanley Bingham 0-0-0, Chris Callahan 0-0-0, Jaydon Lucas 1-0-2. TOTALS: 19-12-52.
3-point goals — Miller 2, Koehler, Horn, Merhar, Lockwood. Rebounds — Cuyahoga Falls 18 (Koehler 5), Wadsworth 31 (Casey 7). Assists — Cuyahoga Falls 4 (Tepus 2), Wadsworth 9 (Merhar 4). Records — Cuyahoga Falls (1-5, 0-3), Wadsworth (1-2, 1-1). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 42, Cuyahoga Falls 32.